It is telling that David Hill's piece discussing the transfer of Ander Herrera to Manchester United in The Guardian also cited the possibility of Arjen Robben joining him. For every nugget of truth about players on their way to Old Trafford there is a multitude of unfounded nonsense.
From done deals to deluded dreams, the number of players linked to Old Trafford this summer has become somewhat farcical. After a largely dominant couple of decades spearheaded by Sir Alex Ferguson, the shambolic performances last season under David Moyes have led fans and critics to question nearly everybody at the club from the top down.
As the reality of a seventh-place finish began to set in, many critics called for a complete overhaul of the squad. BBC pundit Robbie Savage claimed as many as 12 players needed to go, which would be unprecedented for a side that were comfortably champions just 12 months previous.
Ed Woodward only perpetuated these rumours in a recent interview with MUTV’s Stewart Gardner (via James Tuck of ManUtd.com) by claiming that money was no issue, suggesting that multiple signings were yet to come: "We are willing to invest. There is no fixed budget. ... There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, so watch this space."
Inevitably, this sent the rumour mill into overdrive. But how much truth is there behind the rumours?
New manager Louis van Gaal has already made decisions that contradict Woodward’s chest-beating battle cry. Far from chucking money at the problems, Van Gaal made it clear at a U.S. press conference that every player has a right to fight for their place: "I have told the club I won’t do anything until I know the players here. ... I want to give all players the chance to show themselves under my guidance."
His words were reinforced by his decision to make Tom Cleverley captain in only his second game in charge. The much-maligned centre midfielder has endured a torrid time recently, with many fans voicing their opinion that he is not good enough for a club of United’s stature. Despite this, Van Gaal made a clear point, as Cleverley skippered the team to a 3-2 victory over AS Roma.
Van Gaal is proving to be his own man. In just a few weeks in charge he has taken the bold steps of demanding the club relocate their hotel on their U.S. tour, risked the wrath of the fans by making Cleverley captain and slammed the club's publicity and marketing techniques. Because of this, seeming certainties such as Marouane Fellaini being sold at a loss or the likes of Cleverley, Nani and Ashley Young being moved on are no longer guaranteed. Every place is up for grabs.
Is the seemingly never-ending list of transfer rumours justified due to what Van Gaal himself has labelled a “broken squad”, or will the manager simply implement his own infrastructure to get the best out of what some would label mediocre talent?
With the mass departure of experienced players, multiple signings are a necessity. Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs have left some big boots to fill. Luke Shaw, promising as he may be, is only 19, and thus defensive reinforcements will be a necessity.
If Van Gaal is to stick to his current 3-5-2 formation, he will need cover for the centre-back positions. Rumours of Hummels are therefore justified, although Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp claimed at a press conference that he will “eat a broomstick” if they're true.
Angel Di Maria is another logical signing, a world-class talent who can be deployed down the wings in what Van Gaal called a “specialty” position at his opening press conference. However, the Real Madrid man seemingly favours Champions League football alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva at Paris Saint-Germain.
The French giants recently ruled themselves out of the running, as reported at SportingLife.com, but it is questionable whether Di Maria would want to play for a team not involved in Europe. In what will be a frustrating development for many United fans, there are indications that Van Gaal has been impressed with the performances of current winger Ashley Young having notched four goals in the club's US pre-season tour. The Daily Mail's Rajvir Rai reported that the winger was chosen to sit next to the manager during a press conference which was something of a "rarity" under the previous management.
Rumours of Vidal have been consistent, recently picked up on by Simon Rice of The Independent, and make perfect sense. At the aforementioned press conference Van Gaal singled out Michael Carrick as a big loss through injury before handing Darren Fletcher the captaincy for his first game in charge, indicating the importance he places on dominant midfield-possession play. But Fletcher has been lacklustre since returning from injury, and at 33 Carrick cannot be relied upon week-in, week-out. Vidal will be an ideal replacement over the next couple of seasons.
Because it is so early on in Van Gaal’s tenure it is impossible to perfectly predict who he will and won’t sign, but the early indications are very strongly against the overhaul anticipated.
With two acquisitions already secured, United can expect perhaps two more first-team contenders to be signed, but Van Gaal’s ability to get the most out of individuals means that many of the faces fans expect to be gone will retain very prominent roles in the squad.